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MGG: The lonely Prime Minister in Putra Jaya
By M.G.G. Pillai

7/11/2001 9:38 am Wed

The Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed, is upset and unhappy that he is forced to live in lonely spleandour in his spanking new palace in Putra Jaya, with only his deputy, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and the Chief Secretary, for company a heft stone's throw away. He is reduced to this state because the authorities delay unnecessarily issuing certificates of fitness without which the houses cannot be occupied. When you and I buy a house, it is our standard complaint that the certificates would not be issued when houses are handed over. We all know why, and take quick steps to ensure that these unofficial conditions are met. The prime minister obviously does not know these procedures, and his officials unwilling to be the first to tell him what they are. After all, Hari Raya Aidil Fitri comes soon, and expenses are heavy ...

But the Prime Minister is only half correct. Hundreds of houses have had their CFs issued, but the owners do not want to move in. Putra Jaya is bare of all facilities required to make it a living community, bedroom or otherwise. If they move in to keep the Prime Minister company, it disrupts their lives. Wives who work in Kuala Lumpur and children who study in Kuala Lumpur schools and the social life of their parents in the Klang Valley makes shifting to Putra Jaya a wrench. It would be the wives and children who would have to commute, and that is not on. Let us assume they do. If the children want to eat satay at the stalls, the parents must drive them out for miles to the nearest town. Putra Jaya is bare of all this. It is built with no thought to developing a community. It is deserted after hours. There are no shops for even basic needs. Civil servants working there must bring packed lunches: the choices are a fancily priced canteen in the Prime Minister's office, and what passes for Malay stall food in the other ministries.

I can understand the Prime Minister's loneliness. Even he does not stay there as often as he must: he escapes to his house at the Mines more often than not. The civil servants, however loyal, would not disrupt their lives to live near him. The Prime Minister does not mention another reason: they are, almost to a man, not disposed to him as they once were. He thought he could win them over with the perks he offered them in this year's budget. It was to buy their support. It did not work. And he is felled by the ten-sen hike in petrol prices. That ten sen will cause prices to rise, despite the government's threats that it should not, and no order it should not would work. The public suffers, and this is why he and his ministers are in no doubt, if their statements are believed, that a ten sen hike in petrol is a small price to pay for the goodies they did not get in the budget.

There is an unmentioned reason. The building of Putra Jaya benefited those closest to the Prime Minister. I have not been able to find out who owns the land in Putra Jaya. The Prime Minister is said to be livid when he found out. Selangor state, it appears, got so little money and the middle man so much that it raises questions about the Putra Jaya project itself. When I spoke to some UMNO politicians in Selangor about this, they are so livid for what that augurs for their future. Selangor Malays, they tell me, are angry at what they see as double-dealing. Since Putra Jaya is built in secrecy at mindboggling prices, much of the internal shenanigans are out of the public eye. Not any more. UMNO members would begin questioning as trenchantly as the opposition at what goes wrong. Not just in the state assemblies, but elsewhere. So, the least of the Prime Minister's problems in Putra Jaya has nothing to do with CFs for completed houses there.

M.G.G. Pillai